It’s crazy to think that I’m just one generation removed from the Jim Crow Era.
Born in 1949, my father grew up in Kings Mountain, NC, a small rural town during the era of segregation. My grandfather was a barber and a pastor, and my grandmother used to clean rich people’s houses. The stories my father tells me about how life was back then is pretty mind-boggling for someone who grew up with all the necessities.
He was often late to school, for he had to help his mother at work in the mornings. He used to live down the street from a former slave. Unsure of her age, he estimated that she was in her nineties when he was a teenager. She used to live in a house with cinder block walls and dirt floors hard as concrete from being swept and walked on over decades.
I understand that I’m an outlier for my age: most college students don’t have parents with this sort of experience. But every time my father and I talk about these things, the fact that I’m just a couple of generations away from this reality shakes me to my core.
In Kings Mountain, voter suppression wasn’t apparent in the way which you typically hear about it. There weren’t any literacy tests or poll taxes, but there also weren’t any candidates who represented the interests of the black section of town. No black people even attempted to challenge the status-quo.
My father talks often about the trauma he has experienced from living during this time.
“People in King’s Mountain didn’t have to use violence,” he said. “They had those invisible mental fences up.”
The truth is, many people around the country are living in a similar situation to my father, and in the year 2020. Voter suppression, like everything else, has evolved and adapted with the times. From long lines at the polls to removal of voting locations to strict photo voter ID laws, voter suppression is a sinister reality for many in this country.
That’s why I choose to vote.
Because while I’m a couple generations from disenfranchisement, there are many who are still there. Regardless of who is running for office, I’m always going to vote. Out of respect to those who came before me, those who fought for my rights and freedoms, and those who are still fighting.